Lime ash flooring at The Farm, High Street, Brimington

You’ve probably never heard of lime-ash flooring, but if you’ve ever been to Hardwick Hall you will definitely have walked on it. In this blog we take a look at this type of flooring, once employed fairly extensively, using 24 and 24a High Street (formerly known as The Farm) as an example.

24 and 24a High Street, taken from High Street in November 2021. Until the 1930s this property was one farm house. It was once simply known as ‘The Farm’.

Lime ash flooring and its use

As the name suggests lime ash floors were made with lime and a mixture of sand or loam, broken brick and brick dust, but other materials might be used – even cow dung.

Used from the 15th to the 19th century, its clever composition was ideal for first floors and above. The lime ash floor was relatively lightweight and was flexible enough to not display too much cracking.

The material would be mixed on site. The underside of the floor to be treated was usually laid with harvested reeds across the joists. The lime ash mixture would then be spread on top of the reeds, with the top surface usually finished smooth. To give the surface a polished water repellent finish, egg white or curdled milk would be trowelled into the surface. If you have been to Hardwick Hall, you may well have mistaken the lime ash floors there for concrete.

Here we are looking upwards at the underside of a lime ash floor at The Farm, in 1994. Reeds have been placed across the joists on which would be placed a mixture of lime and ash (brick chippings and dust, etc).  This would be smoothed off at floor level. This type of flooring is sometimes mistaken for concrete, but the material used is much more flexible.

Lime ash floors in Brimington

Like many communities Brimington will have buildings with lime ash floors. One definite example is the grade II listed building 24 and 24a High Street. In 1994, when this was being refurbished, removal of the ceiling in some areas revealed the reeds, still with their seed heads intact. On top was the traditional lime ash mix. This property is dated 1763, so those reeds were probably harvested in that year and remained, presumably untouched, until seen again in the 1990s.

For the period, this house is slightly unusual in Brimington in that it is built of brick – most properties of this type were built of stone. The lime ash flooring mix probably contains brick dust and broken pieces of brick from the building’s construction.

We believe that the lime ash floors in The Farm, after some repair, survive. But the ceilings under the reeds had plaster board applied and they are now hidden once more. If they have survived, how long will it be before they see the light of day again?

1994 saw a through refurbishment of both parts of The Farm. Here we see scaffolding erected around the outside.

There are undoubtedly lime ash floors elsewhere in the village (and probably in Tapton). Vernon Brelsford tells the story (in his 1937 ‘History of Brimington…’ p. 35) of the ‘Tithe House’— the white painted building next to the Post Office on High Street; ‘A few years ago, the owner, Mr JT Holmes carried out some extensive repairs and alterations to the house, during which one of the two floors upstairs was found to be of highly polished concrete’. This is probably lime ash flooring not concrete.

We’d be interested to hear from owners who think their property has lime ash flooring and also to those who remember The Farm.

We’ll be looking in more detail at The Farm’s history in a future blog.

For further information on lime ash flooring see the South West Bulletin of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (number 24, May 2014).

2 thoughts on “Lime ash flooring at The Farm, High Street, Brimington

  1. We have lime ash flooring in two of our bedrooms upstairs in our cottage. But we have a problem as one has significantly cracked in the bathroom. We haven’t renovated this room. What is best? Do we pull it up and make a new floor or can we fill it and cover over it??

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  2. Have you had a look at the newsletter link in our blog. It may also be worth talking to the local authority conservation officer for advice. If your building is listed you may well need consent to repair or replace the floor.

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